Known as “the town of milk and silk,” Nomura Town in Seiyo City, Ehime Prefecture has long thrived on stockbreeding and sericulture. Its sericulture industry, which makes raw silk yarn from silkworm cocoons, started in the early Meiji Period (1868-1912), and by the early Taisho Period (1912-1926) as many as 1,138 sericultural farmhouses filled the town.
There are various reasons for the development of sericulture in this semi-mountainous town: the local farmland occupied a large area of sloping land, necessary for growing the mulberry trees needed to feed silkworms; a large number of workers were available compared to the area of the farmland; and sericulture was highly profitable.
In 1933, a silk-reeling factory was established in Nomura, and the locally produced raw silk was registered with the trademark name of Camellia Silk, receiving high acclaim both domestically and internationally. However, Nomura’s silk-reeling industry declined over time, under pressure from high-volume imports of cheaper products from abroad. Today only about 10 sericulture farmers remain.
Nonetheless, the high quality of Camellia Silk has been passed down over the years. It features a unique bulkiness, which means its yarn has more expansion per unit of length than the average yarn, and also offers a fine gloss. Riding on the enduring strength of the Nomura brand, Camellia Silk is still sold in Kyoto and other areas of Japan.
Furthermore, Japan’s shrines have a tradition known as Sengu, when their enshrined deity is moved to a temporary shrine during reconstruction work. At Ise-jingu Shrine, one of the most important shrines in Japan, every 20 years the entire shrine is reconstructed in a ceremony referred to as Shikinen Sengu—and Camellia Silk is designated as a provider of raw silk yarn for the ceremony. It is used for making formal attire for the ceremony as well as new offerings to the god of the shrine.
Nomura’s Silk Museum presents a number of valuable items related to the industry that supported the town’s modernization in terms of both industry and economy. Its displays include both historical documents and tools that were used in the production of cocoons and raw silk yarns. There are also programs where guests can experience making products using Camellia Silk themselves.
Nomura Silk Museum
8-177-1 Nomuracho Nomura Seiyo City Ehime Prefecture
2731 Minamiyoshidamachi Matsuyama City Ehime Prefecture